Jehovah Forgives in a Large Way
“Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, . . . for he will forgive in a large way.”—ISAIAH 55:7.
1. With what are recipients of Jehovah’s forgiveness now blessed?
JEHOVAH forgives repentant wrongdoers and now enables them to enjoy peace of mind in a spiritual paradise. This is so because they meet these requirements: “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.”—Isaiah 55:6, 7.
2. (a) What is meant by ‘searching for Jehovah’ and ‘returning to him,’ as mentioned at Isaiah 55:6, 7? (b) Why did Jewish exiles in Babylon need to return to Jehovah, and what happened to some of them?
2 To “search for Jehovah” and call to him with acceptance, a wicked person has to abandon his wrong way and any thought of doing harm to others. The need to “return to Jehovah” indicates that the wrongdoer left God, with whom he once had an intimate relationship. That was the case with Judah’s inhabitants, whose unfaithfulness to God eventually led to exile in Babylon. The Jewish exiles needed to return to Jehovah by repenting of misdeeds that had resulted in their Babylonian captivity and the foretold 70-year desolation of their homeland. In 537 B.C.E., that land was reoccupied by a God-fearing remnant of Jews released from Babylon by governmental decree. (Ezra 1:1-8; Daniel 9:1-4) So grand were the effects of that restoration that the land of Judah was compared with the Edenic Paradise.—Ezekiel 36:33-36.
3. How has the remnant of spiritual Israel had an experience like that of the God-fearing exiles who returned to Judah?
3 Spiritual Israelites have had an experience like that of the God-fearing Jews who returned to Judah after Babylonian exile. (Galatians 6:16) The remnant of spiritual Israel did some changing of their way and their thoughts right after World War I. The year 1919 marked the end of their exile from God’s full favor in the realm of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. Because they repented of sins involving fear of man and inactivity in Jehovah’s service, he freed them from Babylon the Great, brought them back to their rightful spiritual estate, and resumed using them to preach the Kingdom message. A spiritual paradise has flourished among God’s people since then, to the honor of his holy name. (Isaiah 55:8-13) In the ancient prototype and the modern antitype, then, we have clear evidence that blessings follow divine forgiveness and that Jehovah does indeed forgive repentant ones in a large way.
4. What fear do some servants of Jehovah have?
4 Jehovah’s present-day servants can therefore trust in his forgiveness. Yet, some of them are despondent over past errors, and feelings of guilt nearly overwhelm them. They do not consider themselves worthy of residing in the spiritual paradise. In fact, some fear that they have committed the unforgivable sin and will never receive Jehovah’s forgiveness. Is that likely?
Some Sins Unforgivable
5. Why can it be said that some sins are unforgivable?
5 Some sins are unforgivable. Jesus Christ said: “Every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31) So, then, blasphemy against God’s holy spirit, or active force, will not be forgiven. The apostle Paul alluded to such sin when he wrote: “It is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened, . . . but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.”—Hebrews 6:4-6.
6. What determines whether a sin is forgivable or not?
6 Only God knows if a person has committed the unforgivable sin. However, Paul shed light on this matter when he wrote: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” (Hebrews 10:26, 27) A willful person acts deliberately, or is “obstinately and often perversely self-willed.” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) Anyone willfully and obstinately continuing to practice sin after he knows the truth is not forgiven. Hence, it is not so much the sin itself as it is the heart condition, the degree of willfulness involved, that affects whether the sin is forgivable or not. On the other hand, what is likely the case when an erring Christian is deeply disturbed about his wrongdoing? His great concern probably indicates that he has not, in fact, committed an unforgivable sin.
Their Sins Were Unforgivable
7. Why can we say that some of Jesus’ religious opposers committed unforgivable sin?
7 Certain Jewish religious leaders who opposed Jesus did commit willful, and thus unforgivable, sin. Though they saw God’s holy spirit at work through Jesus as he did good and performed miracles, those clerics ascribed his power to Beelzebub, or Satan the Devil. They sinned with their eyes wide open to the undeniable operation of God’s spirit. Thus, they committed unforgivable sin, for Jesus said: “Whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.”—Matthew 12:22-32.
8. Why was the sin of Judas Iscariot unforgivable?
8 The sin of Judas Iscariot also was unforgivable. His betrayal of Jesus was the willful, deliberate culmination of a course of hypocrisy and dishonesty. For instance, when Judas saw Mary anoint Jesus with costly oil, he asked: “Why was it this perfumed oil was not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor people?” The apostle John added: “[Judas] said this, though, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief and had the money box and used to carry off the monies put in it.” Soon thereafter, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. (John 12:1-6; Matthew 26:6-16) True, Judas felt remorse and committed suicide. (Matthew 27:1-5) But he was not forgiven, since his deliberate, persistently selfish course and his treacherous act reflected his sin against the holy spirit. How appropriate that Jesus should call Judas “the son of destruction”!—John 17:12; Mark 3:29; 14:21.
Their Sins Were Forgiven
9. Why did God forgive David’s sins in connection with Bath-sheba?
9 Willful sins stand in sharp contrast with the errors of those forgiven by God. Take King David of Israel as an example. He committed adultery with Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah, and later had Joab maneuver Uriah’s death in battle. (2 Samuel 11:1-27) Why did God show David mercy? Principally because of the Kingdom covenant but also because of David’s own mercifulness and his genuine repentance.—1 Samuel 24:4-7; 2 Samuel 7:12; 12:13.
10. Though Peter sinned seriously, why did God forgive him?
10 Consider, too, the apostle Peter. He sinned seriously by repeatedly denying Jesus. Why did God forgive Peter? Unlike Judas Iscariot, Peter had been honest in the service of God and Christ. This apostle’s sin was due to fleshly weakness, and he was truly repentant and “wept bitterly.”—Matthew 26:69-75.
11. How would you define “repentance,” and what should a person do if he is truly repentant?
11 The foregoing examples show that even a person who sins grievously can obtain Jehovah God’s forgiveness. But what attitude is required in order to be forgiven? True repentance is vital if an erring Christian is to be forgiven by God. To repent means “to turn from sin out of penitence for past wrongdoings” or “feel regret or contrition for what one has done or omitted to do.” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary) A truly repentant person would show remorse over any reproach, sorrow, or problems his sin had brought on Jehovah’s name and organization. The repentant wrongdoer would also produce corresponding fruit, performing works that befit repentance. (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20) For example, if he had defrauded someone, he would take reasonable steps to compensate for the loss. (Luke 19:8) Such a repentant Christian has sound Scriptural reasons to be confident that Jehovah will forgive in a large way. What are these?
Reasons for Confidence in God’s Forgiveness
12. On the basis of what does Psalm 25:11 indicate that a repentant person can pray for forgiveness?
12 A repentant wrongdoer can confidently pray for forgiveness on the basis of Jehovah’s name. David begged: “For your name’s sake, O Jehovah, you must even forgive my error, for it is considerable.” (Psalm 25:11) Such prayer, coupled with repentance for any reproach the wrongdoer has brought upon God’s name, should also act as a deterrent to gross sin in the future.
13. What role does prayer play in divine forgiveness?
13 Jehovah God answers the heartfelt prayers of his erring but repentant servants. For example, Jehovah did not turn a deaf ear to David, who prayed from the heart after realizing the enormity of his sins in connection with Bath-sheba. In fact, David’s words in Psalm 51 express many a suppliant’s sentiments. He begged: “Show me favor, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin. The sacrifices to God are a broken spirit; a heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.”—Psalm 51:1, 2, 17.
14. How do the Scriptures provide reassurance that God forgives those exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice?
14 God forgives those exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Wrote Paul: “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Ephesians 1:7) With similar import, the apostle John wrote: “My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:1, 2.
15. To continue enjoying God’s mercy, what must a repentant sinner do?
15 Jehovah’s mercy gives a repentant wrongdoer a basis for confidence that he can be forgiven. Nehemiah said: “You are a God of acts of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.” (Nehemiah 9:17; compare Exodus 34:6, 7.) Of course, to continue enjoying divine mercy, the sinner must strive to keep God’s law. As the psalmist said, “let your mercies come to me, that I may keep living; for your law is what I am fond of. Many are your mercies, O Jehovah. According to your judicial decisions, O preserve me alive.”—Psalm 119:77, 156.
16. What comfort is there in the fact that Jehovah takes our sinful state into account?
16 The fact that Jehovah takes our sinful state into account also gives a repentant wrongdoer comfort and reason to pray with confidence that God will forgive him. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) The psalmist David gave comforting reassurance when he declared: “He [Jehovah God] has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, his loving-kindness is superior toward those fearing him. As far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:10-14) Yes, our heavenly Father is even more merciful and compassionate than a human parent.
17. What bearing does one’s past record of faithful service to God have on forgiveness?
17 A repentant sinner can pray for forgiveness with confidence that Jehovah will not ignore his past record of faithful service. Nehemiah was not pleading for forgiveness for his sin, but he did say: “Do remember me, O my God, for good.” (Nehemiah 13:31) A repentant Christian can find comfort in the words: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10.
Help From Older Men
18. What should be done if a Christian’s sin has made him spiritually sick?
18 What if a Christian feels unfit to remain in the spiritual paradise or is unable to pray because his sin has made him spiritually sick? “Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah,” wrote the disciple James. “And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.” Yes, congregation elders can effectively pray with and for a repentant fellow believer in hopes of restoring him to good spiritual health.—James 5:14-16.
19. If a person has been disfellowshipped, what must he do to be forgiven and reinstated?
19 Even if a judicial committee disfellowships an unrepentant sinner, he has not necessarily committed the unforgivable sin. To be forgiven and reinstated, however, he must humbly obey God’s laws, produce fruits befitting repentance, and apply to the elders for reinstatement. After a fornicator was disfellowshipped from the congregation in ancient Corinth, Paul wrote: “This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary now, you should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.”—2 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.
God Gives Strength
20, 21. What may help a person experiencing anxiety about having possibly committed unforgivable sin?
20 If such factors as poor health or stress are causing anxiety about having committed unforgivable sin, getting adequate rest and sleep may be helpful. Especially, however, should you remember Peter’s words: “Throw all your anxiety upon [God], because he cares for you.” And never let Satan discourage you, for Peter added: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world. But, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.”—1 Peter 5:6-10.
21 So if you are contrite but have been fearful that you are guilty of unforgivable sin, remember that God’s ways are wise, just, and loving. Therefore, pray to him in faith. Keep taking in the spiritual food that he provides through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Associate with fellow believers and share in the Christian ministry regularly. This will strengthen your faith and free you from any fear that God may not have forgiven your sin.
22. What will we next consider?
22 Residents of the spiritual paradise can take comfort in the knowledge that Jehovah forgives in a large way. Yet, their life is not without trials today. Perhaps they are depressed because a loved one has died or a dear friend is gravely ill. As we shall see, in these and other circumstances, Jehovah helps and leads his people by means of his holy spirit.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What proof is there that Jehovah ‘forgives in a large way’?
□ For what sin is there no forgiveness?
□ Under what circumstances are one’s sins forgiven?
□ Why can repentant wrongdoers be confident in God’s forgiveness?
□ What help is available to repentant wrongdoers?
[Picture on page 10]
Do you know why David and Peter were forgiven but Judas Iscariot was not?
[Picture on page 12]
Assistance by congregation elders can do much to help a Christian spiritually